The Kellogg-Briand Pact is a treaty that people don’t bring up in everyday conversation, unless someone misunderstands a question about their favorite maker of Frosted Flakes. In fact, it’s safe to assume that very few people, even those inside a classroom with “History” on the outside of the door, really discuss it all. And that’s not just because it sounds more like a cereal company than a major multilateral aggreement.
Kellogg-Briand, like pretty much every other foreign policy decision germinated in the 1920’s, had the sharp, painful memory of World War I as its seed. This was especially true for France because, as we have talked about before, they had paid a heavier price in blood and territorial destruction than any other World War I combatant. So after the War, their drive to assure that nothing of the sort would ever happen again to their men on their soil was exceedingly strong.
They heavilly backed The League of Nations. They pushed Germany to the brink of complete collapse with the Treaty of Versailles and its huge reparations payments. And they adamantly supported most every anti-war piece of legislation that came along.
The Kellogg-Briand Pact was just such a measure and it started simply enough. French foreign minister Aristide Briand (above on the right) approached the U.S. about a bilateral treaty that denounced war as a method of settling disputes between the two countries. But U.S. Secretary of State Frank Kellogg (on the left) was concerned that such a treaty was an entangling alliance that would eventually force the U.S. into yet another foreign war. So he proposed a more general, multilateral agreement (that any country could sign) that was simply against war.
Of course, there was no real mechanism (short of what the treaty sought to prevent) for enforcement, so lots of countries were more than willing to add their names to the list. Fifteen of them did so immediately, signing the Kellogg-Briand Pact on August 27, 1928. In total, more than 60 countries would sign the dotted line…
…just in time for Japan to invade Manchuria in 1931, and start the whole “freefall-to-war” process all over again. But such was the futility of all the peace efforts in the 1920’s and 1930’s.